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Manoj Bajpayee: I miss my village in Bihar. But it has no Wi-Fi, my kid has classes

Migrant workers walking back to their villages from big cities has been one of the most striking images of the pandemic. Actor Manoj Bajpayee’s new evocative rap song Bambai Main Ka Ba attempts to capture the plight of these workers.

Manoj Bajpayee was recently seen in the music video of rap song Bambai Main Ka Ba. (Illustration: Suvajit Dey)

Migrant workers walking back to their villages from big cities has been one of the most striking images of the pandemic. Actor Manoj Bajpayee’s new evocative rap song, Bambai Main Ka Ba (What’s there in Mumbai?), attempts to capture the plight of these workers. The 51-year-old National Award-winning actor has returned to the sets and has undergone three Covid-19 tests so far as part of the shooting. At home, he says he keeps himself busy with chores, his daughter.

What precautions do you take to stay Covid-free?

I take homeopathic medicines. I follow the standard precautions of social distancing and wearing masks when we step out. Also, we step out of home only when absolutely necessary. That’s all one can do other than praying that we stay safe.

Have you got yourself tested for Covid-19?

I underwent the test three times during the shoot for the second season of The Family Man, a web-series for Amazon Prime Video. They were being very careful. In fact, the entire unit was tested three times even though we shot for only one night. The shoot took place earlier this month.

What has your routine been like in self-isolation?

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We get up at 6 am as my daughter has her classes. Even for her online classes, she has to be in her school uniform. Shabana is with her during the class. Apart from that, we do meditation and yoga. We try to have breakfast and lunch on time. I have to make time for housework, video meetings, script readings and interviews.

What kind of gloves and mask do you use?

We use surgical and N95 masks. We get them from reliable sources.

While interacting with people at work, what precautions do you take?

When I go out for meetings and script discussions, we are all very careful. We follow social distancing very strictly and wear masks.

Did this period of isolation allow you more time with your family?

We were in Mukteswar in Uttarakhand for three-and-a-half months during the lockdown. I was shooting there for a film and my family joined me. We decided to stay back there when the lockdown started. Towards the end of July, we came back as a lot of my work was pending in Mumbai. My nine-year-old daughter’s online classes were also going to start from August 4.

When you are with family, you devote all your time to them. So, I help my daughter with her homework, play with her, or we are just laughing about something. I choose not to be distracted when I am with my family. My phone is in silent mode most of the time. Sometimes, work-related compulsions keep you busy. I shot the Bhojpuri rap song Bambai Mein Ka Ba, directed by Anubhav Sinha, at Kamalistan Studio last month. The studio has a permanent train station set. We shot the song in six hours with all the safety measures. However, since I was the actor, I was not wearing a mask. At times, that can make you nervous.

Do you take any specific precautions while you travel?

While returning from Uttarakhand, we drove from Mukteshwar to Haldwani. From there, we went to Delhi and then Mumbai. We requested government officials for help and took all the necessary permissions required for our travel.

How much time do you spend in front of a screen?

Due to the pandemic, most of our meetings are being done on digital platforms. We are even signing contracts virtually. The whole dynamic has changed. This is the new reality. We have adjusted and adapted to it very well.

How do you keep your mind off the pandemic?

The pandemic does take a toll on the mind. Everyone is going through moodswings. Sometimes, it feels like you are drained of energy. You feel restless at times. You also feel excited. There are times you are at ease with everything. We are actors. More than anybody we actors observe ourselves and our changing moods keenly. We take care of it. Meditation is helpful.

My wife is a voracious reader. I can’t claim to be one. I read a lot of political articles and columns. I am a typical Bihari in that respect. Sometimes, I read a book recommended by my wife. I recently read Hazari Prasad Dwivedi’s Kabir and Kurukshetra by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar. I also have to read so many scripts whether I like it or not. In the evening when I am free, I watch a movie or a web-series.

What is the first thing you want to do when the pandemic is past?

I am hoping to visit my village (Belwa in Bihar) soon. However, we can travel only when my daughter has a holiday. There won’t be Wi-Fi in my village and she can’t miss her classes. I was there last two years ago. So, I am missing it very much.

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